Today on May 5, 1260, Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, becomes emperor of the vast Mongolian Empire.
Kublai Khan was the fifth Khagan (meaning Great Khan) of the Mongol Empire and ruled over most of Asia during his thirty-four year reign. In 1260, he succeeded his older brother as emperor but quickly faced political opposition. Early on, Kublai was forced to fight and kill his own younger brother Ariq Boke after he too laid claim to the throne. As the grandson of Genghis Khan, he was destined to become one of the most famous Mongol rulers. Its estimated his legendary grandfather had more than 500 wives and likely thousands of direct descendants.
In contrast to his predecessors, Kublai highly regarded for his administrative capabilities rather than his military conquests. He focused on legitimizing his power with sound governance instead of exploitation. However, he did achieve one impressive military victory by becoming the first foreign invader to conqueror all of China, including the ever-resistant Song Dynasty. At the pinnacle of his power, the Mongol Empire encompassed over one-fifth of the world’s landmass. Its territory stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Black Sea, and from Siberia to Afghanistan. He later established the Yuan Dynasty, installing himself as the sole ruler over present-day Mongolia, China, Korea and other parts across Asia.
Kublai Khan issued several military blunders during his later years which somewhat tarnished his reputation. One of the last Asian strongholds were the Japanese who refused to bow to the Mongols. Kublai ordered two major naval expeditions to subject the island nation of Japan. However, both ultimately failed. In 1281, he amassed a mighty flotilla of warships carrying over 100,000 soldiers. While anchored off the coast of Kyushu, a disastrous typhoon suddenly hit the vulnerable navy. Over half of his troops either perished or taken as taken prisoners. And finally in 1292, he launched another ill-conceived overseas invasion of Java. The Mongols were simply not accustomed to living in the tropical climate and faced new diseases.